When it comes to cruising, many people envision luxurious ships, sunny destinations, and relaxing days at sea. However, there’s a new breed of traveller seeking something more extraordinary, with a sense of danger and excitement about it.

There’s no more exciting area of travel today than Expedition Cruising where you can expect the unexpected.

Expedition cruising is for adventurers and thrill-seekers, curious souls who long to explore uncharted territories but also like a bit of comfort thrown in after their exertions. 

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) is also putting a focus on Expedition Cruising, one of the most innovative and rewarding areas of the cruise sector.

CLIA Managing Director in Australasia Joel Katz said the category had fostered a new breed of traveller, drawn to increasingly sophisticated small-scale ships that can reach remote and pristine locations.

“Expedition cruising is an ideal way to reach extraordinary wilderness and undeveloped landscapes, while still travelling in comfort,” he said. “Regions that were previously inaccessible or difficult to reach can now be explored with relative ease aboard an expedition ship.

“Australian and New Zealand travellers are increasingly motivated by the opportunity gain insight into other cultures or first-hand encounters with wildlife and pristine environments. As a result, we’re seeing a lot of creativity in these areas as cruise lines develop a more intimate and memorable experience for their guests.”

Katz added expedition cruising had gained a strong following among travellers with a love for natural environments.

“Conservation and sustainability are a huge part of the expedition experience and guests often join a cruise to learn more about the marine environment, wildlife, climate and remote ecosystems,” he said.

“Protecting the natural environment is very much a priority and cruise lines are among the pioneers in implementing environmental protections and emission reductions at sea.”

Antarctica: An expedition beyond imagination

Antarctica is a destination that beckons with promises of awe-inspiring landscapes and unparalleled wildlife encounters and still stands as the ultimate expedition.

It’s where schedules serve as mere suggestions and unpredictable weather and ever-changing conditions reign. 

One veteran captain, a seasoned explorer of three decades, greets passengers with a sobering statement: “This is not a holiday; it’s an expedition.”

But what does that mean? In Antarctica, the weather reigns supreme, dictating daily activities. Expedition teams find themselves chasing penguins, seals and whales while constantly monitoring the ever-present ice. The Windy.app is a sailor’s lifeline for storm tracking, and the captain’s job is to outrun them.

An experience through this unforgiving terrain is nothing short of thrilling. In a world where danger is nearly absent, Antarctica serves as a stark contrast, where minimising risk while maximising discovery is the primary objective. Picture standing on a virtually undiscovered island, surrounded by curious penguins, and you begin to understand the allure of this frozen frontier.

Pioneering Polar exploration

The ultimate list of Polar cruise deals to book now and explore later
Quark Expeditions has been at the forefront of Arctic exploration for three decades.
One company at the forefront of polar exploration is Quark Expeditions. It made history in 1991 by becoming the first company to offer commercial expeditions to the North Pole. They specialise in polar regions and operate three ships designed to offer an intimate and authentic polar experience.
What sets Quark apart is its commitment to providing expedition travellers with an unparalleled connection to the polar environment, built up over 30 years of tours.
Quark’s Arctic 2025 season, for example, offers travellers the opportunity to explore remote Arctic destinations beyond the typical tourist routes. Quark’s focus is on smaller ships accommodating between 128 to 199 passengers. They also ensure guests have access to all the necessary gear, including helicopters for unforgettable excursions.
The new season will feature 12 unique itineraries for the expedition traveller, including four new ones. Among the new destinations is Spitsbergen in the Norwegian High Arctic, Greenland with three unique off-ship experiences supported by helicopters, plus the vast Canadian Arctic which is steeped in polar history.

For more information about Quark Expeditions, click here 

It’s time to catch the wave of visitors to the Galápagos.

Expedition cruising beyond the ice

While Antarctica is undoubtedly a bucket-list destination for many, expedition cruising transcends the boundaries of icy adventures. The Galapagos in Ecuador, for instance, offer an island paradise for wildlife enthusiasts. Blue-footed boobies, Galapagos seals and sea lions, giant tortoises and the amazing marine iguanas are among the main attractions. Or travellers can embark on other adventure cruises in diverse locations for example. Options include cruising the Brahmaputra River in northern India, in search of tigers and elephants.

These cruises cater to a growing number of expedition travellers who seek space, authenticity, and a sense of adventure.

Navigating the world with respect

Another player in the expedition traveller world is Ponant, known for its deep respect for the environment and the cultures of the lands it visits.
Ponant goes to great lengths to ensure that local populations are comfortable with their ships and passengers visiting their territories. This involves seeking the approval of local communities and even allowing Indigenous people to visit the ships to foster understanding and inclusivity.
The cruise line’s fleet features a range of exceptional ships. They range from Le Ponant, a sailing ship with just 12 staterooms, to Le Commandant Charcot, a fully-fledged icebreaker. Le Commandant Charcot is also a hybrid vessel, capable of running on electric power in sensitive regions.
Ponant’s fleet of 13 ships also has a regular presence in Australian and New Zealand waters. That includes Ponant’s Kimberley luxury expedition season for 2024 that offers inclusive flights and transfers, a testament to their commitment to providing a seamless and luxurious experience for their guests.
Save up to 30 per cent* on Ponant's 2023 Kimberley Luxury Expeditions
Ponant runs Luxury Expeditions to the Kimberley.
Expedition leader Mick Fogg says of the Kimberley that it’s like the Antarctica of the tropics for the expedition traveller. It’s like nowhere else on earth, a wild land of remote, spectacular scenery spread over vast distances. He says the sheer size and age of the landscape is humbling and it is a privilege to experience such a pristine environment that has so many facets.
In a world where many seek comfort and predictability, expedition cruising stands as an enticing option. It's for those craving adventure, authenticity, and the thrill of the unknown. Whether you’re drawn to the icy landscapes of Antarctica, the lush beauty of the Galapagos or Australia’s remote Kimberley, expedition cruises open up a world of possibilities for all types of intrepid travellers.

For more information about Ponant, click here 

Mick Fogg in Swift Bay
Mick Fogg is a Kimberley expert for Ponant. Picture: Tony Redhead

Updated October 16, 2023.